Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tenants of the Owen Block - Michael Lyon

One of my favorite tenants of the Owen Block was the Michael Lyon family. About 15-20 years ago Ruth Lyon, wife of Michael,  had been the focus of a research project involving an autograph book belonging to Capt. John Strother Chapman during the Civil War. Through that project I learned that Ruth David, daughter of William and Barilla David of Uniontown, Kentucky, had married Michael Lyon in 1863. They later moved to Evansville and lived on Chestnut Street  in what I called the Blue Building, but is  now known as the Owen Block.

Michael Lyon was born in New York City in 1833 and moved to Ohio where he studied law before moving to Evansville about 1856. Michael Lyon was a man of many talents. Shortly after his marriage, he opened a private bank, known as "the Continental Bank under the firm name of M. Lyon & Co., Mrs. Lyon being the company."[1] The latter part of 1865 he went to New York, where he engaged in gold speculation. Unfortunately, this did not work out and he lost over $100,000.[2]

Lyon returned to Evansville, where he went into the clothing business, becoming the first ready- made clothier in the city. It was in the clothing and tailoring business that he achieved his greatest financial success.  At the time of his death,  M. Lyon, Clothier was located at 228-230 Main Street.

Before moving to the Owen Block, the Lyon family lived at the St. George Hotel, where the now-closed McCurdy Hotel is located. The family moved into 123 Chestnut Street (Owen Block) by 1891, where they were living when Michael Lyon died of "congestion of the brain"[3] 24 May 1893. The funeral took place at the home on Chestnut Street  with the Rev. Charles Morris of the nearby St. Paul's Episcopal Church officiating.  Survivors of Michael Lyon included his widow, Ruth, and two sons, William and Robert, the youngest  son, Webb, having drowned in 1882 while visiting relatives in Union County, Kentucky.

Ruth Lyon continued to live at the Owen Block another year after her husband's death and then moved to 816 Upper 1st Street. [4] A few months later, Ruth Lyon entered into a partnership with Charles A. Habbe to conduct a clothing business under the name of M. Lyon Clothing Store.[5] The partnership was to remain in effect  until the 1st day of August 1903, but a Notice of Dissolution, effective 12 June 1900, appeared in the local newspaper.[6]

For the rest of her life, Ruth Lyon divided her time between Citronelle, Mobile County, Alabama and Evansville. In 1911, her  son. Robert, died in Citronelle and, on 9 February 1921, Ruth Lyon passed away in Evansville from pneumonia and old age. She had been born in 1840 in Union County, Kentucky. Her only survivors were a son, Will Lyon, and a younger sister.  Will Lyon would pass away just two years later.

A beautiful monument  in Oak Hill Cemetery in Evansville marks the burial places of the entire Lyon family. Only the names of Michael and Webb Lyon are engraved on the monument, but cemetery records show that Ruth and her sons, Robert and Will, are also buried there.

Michael Lyon Family Monument
Oak Hill Cemetery
Evansville, Indiana

[1] "A Brief Illness," Evansville Journal, 25 May 1893, p. 2.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4]  1894 Evansville City Directory,  p. 401
[5] "Certificate of Limited Partnership," Evansville Courier, 26 August 1893, p. 5.
[6] "Notice of Dissolution," Evansville Courier, 13 June 1900, p. 6

Published 28 March 2015, Rambling Thoughts ... Out of My Mind,

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tenants of the Owen Block - Evansville, Indiana

Owen Block
121-127 Chestnut Street
Evansville, Indiana

The Owen Block in Evansville has been in the news a lot recently. Should it be demolished because of its poor condition or should it be restored because of its unique architecture? I am pleased that it looks like the proponents for restoration are currently in the lead. Built in the second empire style most popular after the Civil War and with its blue color, the Owen Block stands out in the downtown historic district.

Dr. A.M. Owen built the Owen Block in 1882 and the building consisted of four three-floors-plus-basement townhouses at 121-127 Chestnut Street. The building was also known as the Owen Flats. Dr. Owen and his family lived in one townhouse and the other three were rented out.

 This type of housing was new to Evansville. In a newspaper article[1] in 1909, the following was written: "Flats are increasingly popular in Evansville. Thirty years ago the only buildings in the city which were known as flats were the Owen houses on Chestnut street between Second and Third streets. Now flat buildings are springing up in all parts of the city."
I will leave it to others to decide if Dr. Owen was a visionary of what Evansville needed. At any rate, he provided something new in housing for the citizens of Evansville, but who was Dr. Owen and what part. if any, did he play in the history of Evansville?
Abraham Miconius Owen was born 19 March 1849 in Madisonville, Kentucky, the son of Dr. A.B. Owen. After a common school education, he studied medicine and received his diploma from Bellevue Medical College in 1870. After serving  on the staff there for a short while following graduation, he moved to Evansville, where he was associated with the local medical college.
Dr. Owen married Laura Jerauld 20 October 1875 at the home of her parents in Princeton, Indiana. Three children, Amelia, George J. and Leartus, were born to the couple.
 In 1880 A.M. Owen was a physician and surgeon and professor of surgery at the Medical College of Evansville. His medical office was located at 504 Upper 1st Street and his residence was at 615 Upper 1st Street,[2] not far from where the Owen Block would be constructed in 1882.
Dr. Owen was involved in the municipal as well as medical affairs of Evansville. He served as president of the local medical society and, with two other physicians, published a medical magazine. One of his biggest ventures was with Dr. Edwin Walker in the establishment of the Evansville Sanitarium in 1894 at 712 Upper 4th Street. The sanitarium, later renamed Walker Hospital, was the forerunner of Welborn Baptist Hospital. Evansville Sanitarium contained three floors, each one supplied with hot and cold baths and provided the latest facilities for patients. The sanitarium had accommodations for 20 patients - 12 in private rooms and the remaining  in two wards.  
Ironically, Dr. Owen died 18 September 1898 in the Evansville Sanitarium after being in poor health for about a year. Funeral services were held at his home in the Owen Block with burial at Oak Hill Cemetery.
The tenants of the Owen Block were among the more prominent residents of Evansville. Many worked nearby and a number worshiped at St. Paul's Episcopal Church at 301 SE 1st Street  or Grace Presbyterian Church at 601 SE 2nd Street. Social events at the Owen Block were often described in the local newspapers. One such event, hosted by Mrs. Owen, was a "high tea" with an orange theme - from the ribbons tied around sandwiches to the dress of the hostess. Color-theme parties  were described as "in vogue in Washington, Brooklyn and New York."[3]
Other tenants of the Owen Block will be discussed in the next post.

Published 24 March 2015, Rambling Thoughts ...Out of My Mind,

[1] "Modern Flats Are More Popular," Evansville Journal-News, Sunday, 4 July 1909, p. 18.
[2] Evansville City Directory, 1880, p. 228.
[3] "High Tea," Evansville Journal, 12 April 1887, p. 5.